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Kolárovo’s unique mill floats but doesn’t turn

BY THE beginning of the twentieth century, water mills were a feature of almost every village along the larger rivers of Central Europe. While several “fixed” mills along river banks have been preserved, there is only one surviving floating mill among all the countries of the Visegrad Four, in Kolárovo on the Little Danube River. However, its wheel turned just once at Kolárovo before becoming non-functional, owner Ivan Šáli told the ČTK newswire.

This unique floating mill in Kolárovo is one of only three remaining in all of Europe.This unique floating mill in Kolárovo is one of only three remaining in all of Europe. (Source: ČTK)

BY THE beginning of the twentieth century, water mills were a feature of almost every village along the larger rivers of Central Europe. While several “fixed” mills along river banks have been preserved, there is only one surviving floating mill among all the countries of the Visegrad Four, in Kolárovo on the Little Danube River. However, its wheel turned just once at Kolárovo before becoming non-functional, owner Ivan Šáli told the ČTK newswire.


“The mill wheel turned the first and also the last time when the tugboat brought it from its original place in Komárno to Kolárovo,” Šáli added. This is not the original work but a functioning replica of a mill that used to work somewhere on the Danube River near the municipality of Radvaň on the Danube, close to Komárno. “But several parts are from the original mill,“ Šáli added. There are believed to be only three surviving mills of this type in the world, the other two being in Austria and Slovenia. However, there used to be dozens of floating mills on the Danube and Váh rivers. “There were five to seven of them just in Kolárovo,“ Šáli said. Gradually, their numbers decreased after a ban on further construction was introduced because they posed an obstacle to expanding river-borne ship traffic. After World War II and post-war communist-era collectivisation, demand for them dried up.

The mill in Kolárovo was built at a cost of four million Czechoslovak crowns in the Komárno dockyards in 1982, based on a two-metre scale model by a master miller. The original mill was owned by Béla Szivanyó and was constructed in around 1920. It existed until 1945, when it was destroyed in a fire. The new mill, which lacks some of the original parts, did not find a proper use in Komárno and gradually decayed. Now, thousands of people a year see this unique work in southern Slovakia.

“The mill was in danger of being destroyed a second time after it was brought to Kolárovo and renovated,” Šáli claims. The town rented the mill to a group of young men who turned it into a pub for several months. “The first thing they did was to saw off some parts with a chain saw,” the current owner said. The damage amounted to Sk140,000 (about €4,600).

Nowadays, the mill is open to the public, but Šáli noted that it lacks a river current because five years after the mill was hauled to Kolárovo, the body managing the river closed down the part on which the mill lies because of the planned construction of the Nagymaros dam. “The river level was supposed to rise and fall by four metres every day – the old dams would not have been able to manage this difference,” Šáli explained.

Šáli said he does not want to risk starting the mill wheel with an electric motor for tourists’ sake because the power of the blades could tear the boats that support the mill wheel from their anchorage and damage them. Visitors can reach the mill across what is perhaps the longest wooden roofed bridge in Central Europe. It was built in 1995 to replace the original, smaller wooden bridge. Other than the floating museum, tourists can see a farmer’s house and yard, a traditional bread oven used to bake salty baked goods, and historical engine-powered weaving looms to make fish nets.


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